Analysis | Explosive season of ‘Vanderpump Rules’ ended in predictable chaos


Warning: This story on season 10 of “Vanderpump Rules” contains spoilers.

After one of the most chaotic seasons in reality TV history, the executive producer of “Vanderpump Rules” assured viewers that they would see a “super-explosive event” in the final episode of the season’s three-part reunion on Wednesday night. And at first, it looked like that might be the case.

There was no blow too low during the reunion, which dove into the “Scandoval” drama that broke into the mainstream news cycle in March when TMZ reported that one of the show’s stars, Ariana Madix, discovered that her boyfriend of nine years and fellow castmate, Tom Sandoval, had been cheating on her for seven months with Raquel Leviss — one of Ariana’s good friends.

The explosive reaction from fans, and the close-knit cast who originally shot to stardom working at “Real Housewives” star Lisa Vanderpump’s restaurant in Los Angeles together, ricocheted around the internet. The controversy took over online discourse at record pace, resulting in coverage and explainers from the New York Times to CNN. (And, of course, The Washington Post.)

Producers had started filming the fallout of the affair and reunion as soon as the news became public in March, but in the months between filming and the episodes airing, the cast started spilling details as fast as they could share them, everywhere from social media to hours-long podcast episodes. Fans launched into guessing games, spreading rumors and wild theories as they waited to learn something they didn’t already know.

Wednesday’s reunion proceeded about as fans expected after Raquel arrived onstage, and it was excruciating: Ariana and her counterparts tore into her about her role in the affair, and Tom halfheartedly tried to step in to defend her. Each sides traded barbs, peppered with vicious insults, as moderator-ringmaster Andy Cohen probed for more details about the affair and Ariana (who has capitalized on the recent mass public sympathy to make an enormous amount of money on brand deals) made it clear she would never forgive either of them.

But the real “revelations” were yet to come. At the end of the 75-minute episode, a message flashed on the screen. “Six days later, Raquel sat down for her final interview of the season.”

As Raquel sat in a chair by herself, a producer off-screen said, “You seem like you’re in a lot of pain.” Raquel agreed she was, and said she wanted to tell the truth. “I think that I’ve been lying and being so deceitful this entire time that I don’t want to lie anymore,” she said.

Viewers, who were still waiting for a bombshell, held their collective breath — this had to be it, right? And Raquel started spilling the details: She and Sandoval had lied about how many times they slept together. At one point during the affair, she wondered if she could join Tom and Ariana’s relationship and they could be a “throuple.” She visited Sandoval’s family in St. Louis during the holidays. And then, to cap it off, she admitted she went over to Tom and Ariana’s house at one point last year and hooked up with Tom — while Ariana was out of town because her grandmother had just died.

“I know the reason Tom wanted to lie about it is because it’s a really bad look to hook up with someone’s boyfriend in their own house when they’ve gone out of town — especially for, like, a funeral of all things,” Raquel explained, sobbing, though she would have trouble finding anyone who would argue with that logic.

In a normal world, this would indeed qualify as a shocking admission. In the “Vanderpump” universe, it made little impact, and disappointed comments began streaming onto social media platforms about these “reveals” being a letdown. If anything, the revelations simply twisted the knife for Ariana, because that meant Tom and Raquel had been caught in more lies.

For the most part, die-hard fans had already deduced most of these bits of information weeks ago thanks to rumors, social media context clues and being able to watch the wild series of events that played out off-screen in real time as the cast processed Tom and Raquel’s shocking behavior.

But even with the lack of bombshells, the content of the reunion was also captivatingly gory enough. Ariana’s fury radiated through the screen as she called Raquel all manner of colorful descriptors (“diabolical,” “demented,” “disgusting,” “subhuman”); and that was almost nothing compared what she said to Tom, whom she now despises more than anyone.

Tom, who has tried to blame Ariana being withholding as the reason he cheated, wound up crying. Raquel showed almost no emotion on stage, besides agreeing with Ariana that she had committed the ultimate betrayal and was “super selfish,” which made her tears in the final confessional all the more jarring. Ultimately, the most notable moment during the scene was her revelation that Tom wanted her to lie about the timeline of their cheating, and she was afraid to go against his wishes because he’s the only person she has left after losing her friends due to the affair.

That sort of upsetting human behavior on display on television can’t really compete with any big twists. But even though the “big reveal” wasn’t as shocking as many viewers may have hoped, producers will be happy even if fans are little let down — this unhinged season has been breaking the show’s ratings records, so for Bravo, it’s ultimately a win.


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